Chennai, Oct 12 : DMK President M. Karunanidhi on Wednesday said it is a wonder that Tamil Nadu Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao allocated portfolios handled by Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa to Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam based on her advice.

The ruling AIADMK is learnt to be against the idea of installing a Deputy Chief Minister or appointing an interim head of government to steer the administration till Chief Minister Jayalalithaa recovers completely and resumes her political responsibilities.

However, the party is examining the possibility of reallocating the portfolios held by Ms. Jayalalithaa.

In a statement issued here, Karunanidhi said Jayalalithaa is in the hospital for the past 19 days and was advised longer stay there.

He said that several leaders, including the Tamil Nadu Governor, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Union Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and others, were not allowed to see or wish Jayalalithaa in person when they visited the Apollo Hospitals here where she is admitted.

Given this situation, the statement from Raj Bhavan on Wednesday that reallocation of the portfolios was done based on the advice of Jayalalithaa is a wonder.

Karunanidhi also said one cannot entirely overlook the doubt as to whether the acting Tamil Nadu Governor Vidyasagar Rao had analysed the various provisions of the Constitution in a short span of time.

According to the Raj Bhavan statement issued on Tuesday, Governor Vidyasagar Rao has, under Clause (3) of the Constitution’s Article 166, allocated the subjects hitherto dealt with by Jayalalithaa to Panneerselvam on her advice.

Jayalalithaa held the portfolios of Public, Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service, Indian Forest Service, General Administration, District Revenue Officers, and Home.

Panneerselvam will also preside over the cabinet meetings.

“This arrangement has been made as per the advice of Hon’ble Chief Minister and will continue until the Hon’ble Chief Minister Selvi J. Jayalalithaa resumes her duties. Selvi J. Jayalalithaa will continue to be the Chief Minister,” the Raj Bhavan statement said.

On Tuesday, Congress’ state unit President S. Thirunavukkarasar, reacting to reallocation of the portfolios, told IANS that it “is a welcome development for the continued functioning of the government”.

He said the situation is similar to the one that existed when AIADMK founder, the late M.G. Ramachandran (MGR), was admitted to the same Apollo Hospitals in October 1984.

Senior AIADMK leader C. Ponnaiyan told IANS that the portfolios handled by MGR were then allocated to Nedunchezian.

According to Ponnaiyan, MGR in 1984 had orally instructed that his portfolios are to be handled by Nedunchezhiyan.

“As per the rules, the Chief Minister can orally tell any one or more cabinet colleagues to handle the portfolios. This is the practice followed across the country,” he said.

According to him, there is no provision in the Constitution for an acting Chief Minister.

Speaking to IANS, political commentator Maalan Narayanan said that in 1984, the then Governor Sundar Lal Khurana asked then Finance Minister V.R. Nedunchezhiyan to preside over the cabinet meetings and not to take any policy decisions.

The 68-year-old Jayalalithaa was admitted to the hospital on September 22 for fever and dehydration.

The doctors later said she needed a longer stay at the hospital as she was suffering from infection, and put her on respiratory support.

On October 8, the hospital said: “The respiratory support is closely watched and adjusted. Lungs decongestion treatment is being continued. All other comprehensive measures including nutrition, supportive therapy and passive physiotherapy are under way.”

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The ruling AIADMK has ruled out the need for an acting or temporary Chief Minister. Panneerselvam has earlier served as Chief Minister when Jayalalithaa had to step down in wake of her conviction by a Bengaluru court in a corruption case. She returned to the post after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her.

On October 7, Governor Rao met Panneerselvam and Public Works, Highways and Minor Ports Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Chief Secretary P. Rama Mohana Rao to discuss the Cauvery water issue and the General Administration in the state in the wake of Jayalalithaa’s hospitalisation.

 

Currently, the Public Department, IAS, IPS, IFS, General Administration, District Revenue Officers, Police and Home portfolios are held by the Chief Minister, who has been in hospital since the night of September 22.

Governor’s discussions

On Friday, Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao had invited Chief Secretary P. Rama Mohana Rao in the afternoon. Later in the evening, the Governor held discussions with AIADMK ministers O. Panneerselvam and Edappadi K. Palaniswami and the Chief Secretary. While the Raj Bhavan’s official communiqué said the Governor enquired about the Cauvery water issue and the general administration of the government, AIADMK sources claimed the issue of an interim head or the possibility of designating a Minister as Deputy Chief Minister figured in the discussions.

While the two ministers could not be reached for comment, the grapevine in the ruling AIADMK has it that the two ministers had convinced the Governor that there was no need for installing an interim head of government as the Chief Minister was making a gradual recovery. “As long as the Chief Minister is alive, there is no need for the Governor’s intervention,” a AIADMK leader insisted

During discussions with the Governor, AIADMK senior AIADMK ministers, O Panneerselvam and Edappadi K. Palaniswami had convinced the Governor that there was no need for installing an interim head of government as the Chief Minister was making a gradual recovery.

The ministers however, agreed to consider the reallocation of the Chief Minister’s portfolios to a minister/s and had sought some more time to take a decision on this. Ramesh Chand Meena, Principal Secretary to Governor could be not reached despite repeated attempts to get a reaction.

“As long as the Chief Minister is alive, there is no need for the Governor’s intervention,” a senior AIADMK leader insisted. “As of now, an interim head or a Deputy Chief Minister is not at all necessary,” he contended.

Past precedent

In the past, V.R. Nedunchezhian, as the second in line, had taken over the administration in the absence of first C.N. Annadurai in the late 1960s and then M.G. Ramachandran in 1984-85, an AIADMK veteran said.

When MGR was flown to the USA for treatment, it was Nedunchezhian who conducted the cabinet meetings and governed the State. The portfolios were reallocated then too. “Naturally, the second in command, in this case — O. Panneerselvam would take over the administration,” a senior leader said.

Ruling out Mr. Panneerselvam having taken any decision in this regard, party insiders claim that the only person who could take a decision on even the reallocation of portfolios other than the Chief Minister was her friend Sasikala. The latter, incidentally, does not hold any key office in the party.

Close ring

Insiders also say that Ministers Palaniswami, P. Thangamani and S.P. Velumani were the only persons being directly briefed by Ms Sasikala on the developments; even Mr. Panneerselvam was in the dark.

According to party sources, the name of Mr. Palaniswami as a possible interim head had surfaced as there was a perception in the party that Mr. Panneerselvam, who was the Chief Minister twice when Ms. Jayalalithaa was dislodged from office by courts, had been sidelined for sometime now. “But this can’t be held against Panneerselvam. He is the second in command in the cabinet,” a party senior said. Mr. Palaniswami figures fourth in the rank of seniority in the council of ministers.

 

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